E ALWAYS had music everywhere in the house,” says Deirdre O’Callaghan about growing up in Passage West near Cork City in a household of three music fanatic brothers and a sister who studied music in college.
At the age of 18, she moved to London in the late 1980s and soon gained experience as a photographers’ assistant, as well as working in labs.
Along the way she got to know famed British photographer Rankin, and when he co-founded Dazed & Confused magazine in 1991 he gave her a Polaroid camera to shoot a feature on clubbing in London for the inaugural issue.
“Because I loved music I would also be very involved in what music went in the magazine. I suppose through all that as well I built up a lot of contacts over those years as well with the record labels,” she says.
O’Callaghan spent five years with the magazine before taking on a variety of jobs with record companies shooting press sessions and album artwork as well as advertising jobs.
“But I’ve always been into my own personal projects,” she reflects. “So always on the side I’ll have some personal project on the go, be it small or large.”
This began alongside her time with Dazed & Confused when she began shooting her first book, Hide That Can, which documented the Irish emigrants who ended up at Arlington House, a men’s hostel in Camden.
Since then she has embarked on a number of projects, including Coney Island and the Chelsea Hotel in New York, and eating disorders in young teens.
The Drum Thing sees her return to music, but it was never intended to be a book. “I always thought about doing a project on drummers,” she explains.
“I love the rhythm section. As musicians, a lot of drummers are underrated. I’m very drawn to the type of person who would choose to be a drummer.”
Initially a straight photography project, she soon expanded it to include interviews with her 98 subjects.
Among them were Ringo Starr, Questlove, and a range of others from various musical genres.
“I’m a photographer so it’s all about the pictures, but then as I was chatting to people I had to start recording. When I started as well it was all about people at their kits playing, but then as time went on I realised I’m really going to have to vary this because there’s only so many ways I can make this look interesting. So that’s when I really opened it up.
“I think that’s something that’s really lovely. It’s like really seeing people’s environments as well makes it really personal.”
- The Drum Thing is published by Prestel, www.deirdreocallaghan.com